something. Someone had a party there because they‘d just had an interview for an advert — that‘s the kind ofplace it is.‘
Someone with rather more affinity with the States is actor Emil Wolk. playingJoe Ambrosio. one of Kiss Me Kate‘s intrusive gangsters — a
‘ Mition to the Baltimore version Ur . .ie Taming ()fT/ze Shrew. and the excuse for the seemingly endless ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare‘ duet performed while dancing round a larger then life complete works.
Wolk. whose father was Latvian and whose mother was Italian. has happy memories of a childhood in New York until he was six. At least one uncle — associated with Foffe's Italian restaurant in Brooklyn — sported ‘a suit like the one I wear. hair slicked back. and a pencil-thin moustache on his lower-lip — they were archetypal Mafia types to look at.‘
He recalls the big Sunday lunches in New York. ‘Everyone would be arguing very manically. Sometimes it would be just over a card game. but you‘d think somebody might commit murder— that‘s the sort of environment I was brought up in and it was a great influence on me.’
But his father too was an inﬂuence ofa different nature. ‘lle became a
principal baritone at Covent Garden. and it has always been a bit ofan ambition for me to have a musical part . . .‘ Yet at the same
time. another part of him was a little intimidated. ‘lIe‘s such an amazing singer that l veered away slightly. I followed in his footsteps in terms of performing. but I was scared of falling under par.‘
In fact. Emil Wolk's formative acting years embraced almost everything. as only a spell ofworking with the alternative crowd of'l‘he People Show can do. It was eight years ofhis life that he is in no hurry to forget. ‘It was very difficult to leave. you get very close and it becomes such a way of life. It was a kind of family life. which has its
‘the front room actor”
positive and negative sides. It was the most important part of my working life I think because you were exploring you own ideas. We worked together to invent shows out of very personal fantasies and desires. but in a way which was intelligible to people. And I went all round the world with them. We did more shows abroad than in this country — we were very popular in Italy but also in places like Sweden. France and (icrmany.'
Ile still considers experimental groups to be underestimated. misunderstood and not recognised for the great inﬂuence on British theatre that they are — "l’he IOU company gets a colour supplement spread only after all these years” — but at the same time. the actor who
Left: Kiss Me Kate in rehearsal-a photographtaken by actor-villain Emil Volkwho alsotookthe sellportrait above. Right: the play’s stars. Nichola McAulitte and Paul Jones. in performance. Photo by Hobby Clarke.
seems fated to be involved in families ofone sport or another. has already taken to the spirit ofthe RSC‘. Even as we speak. sitting in the theatre‘s undistinguished canteen. Wolk makes an ltalianate gesture towards the women behind the counter: ‘What comes out of this canteen is like nobody‘s business. They‘re like mothers with their kids. . . and then the dressers. some of them have been here twenty years.‘ He looks down at a mass ofblack and white photographs taken by himself— a constant disappointment to him. yet nonetheless a unique record ofwhat goes on backstage. Some show dancing rehearsals in the vast light-filled. barn-like space ofthe rehearsal room at the top of the building. "l‘he ensemble was terrific and Ron Field the choreographer from Broadway — he was very finicky about what he wanted and it was hard for the dancers to learn to kow-tow. but it was great when the performers could make his fantasies theirown.’
Wolk himself has momentary displays of athleticism in the show. and as the brawn rather than the brains ofthe duo. plenty of muscle-flexing to do — again made possible because of the strenuous demands ofthe People Shows. But his experience as a serious actor is also growing — he was Ricardo in Lost Empires. and recently played a man who helps form a resistance group in the TV drama from
Central‘s Zenith Productions.
Escapefrom Sobibor. starring Alan
Arkin and telling the story of6()()
inmates ofdeath-camps in East
Poland who try to escape. All of which is a far cry from his very early days. before the People show. working at the original Traverse Theatre Company in Edinburgh under director Max Stafford Clark. ‘It was tiny then. I used to get called ‘the front room actor‘ because I spent most ofmy life acting in these small spaces.‘ he recalls.
Now with the wide open spaces of the RSC stage beckoning. Emil is quietly appreciative of being in a production that adopts an ‘old-fashioned musical approach where people won‘t be blinded to performances by the technical achievements.‘
lfthe gangster and the shrew have anything in common. it is probably just that appreciation oftheir current lot. Loyalty to the Company. yes. but loyalty also to Kiss Me Kate's marvellous script and lyrics. Says Nichola. ‘lt doesn‘t matter if it‘s Arnold Wesker or EastEnders; as an actor. you‘re up there to interpret the words. not to exercise your ego or to impress. First and foremost you have got to be true to your writer.‘ And that goes for Shakespeare or (‘ole Porter.
K iss M 0 Kate runs from 2—] / April at Glasgow 's Theatre Royal. See Theatre.
The List 3— 16 April 7